Sri Lanka’s premier banking institution for over a half a century, People’s Bank – also known as “The Bank of The People” – is currently in the process of revolutionising the nation’s banking and financial services space, setting the standard to meet the evolving needs of the 21st century with its innovative digitalisation drive.
A proud heritage
The first branch of People’s Bank was opened on 1 July 1961 with a focus on developing a banking system to better serve the needs of the rural communities. A state institution, the bank has a rich history spanning more than 57 years and is a trusted partner to more than 10 million customers across Sri Lanka – the largest customer base of any banking and financial services provider in the country. Today, with 738 branches and service centres, and a network of close to 1,000 self-serving banking machines and 3,000-plus ATMs on a common platform, the bank’s customers have unrivalled access. People’s Bank’s customer- and community-centric approach, and its policy of financial inclusiveness, has won the hearts and minds of Sri Lankans everywhere, and has enabled it to foster an innovation drive, customising its products and services for the benefit of all its customers.
People’s Bank has also played a pivotal role in empowering agriculture, plantations, commercial initiatives and SMEs, as well as facilitating foreign trade and strengthening engagement through financing and funding mechanisms, such as special loan schemes at reduced rates. Globally, the bank’s portfolio has grown to encompass a network of over 900 agents across 110 countries, extending finance facilities and even including advisory services to corporate clients engaged in international trade.
Towards a digitised future
In line with its vision to become the “most digitised bank in Sri Lanka” by 2020, as envisaged in its strategic business plan 2016-2020, People’s Bank’s was recently recognised by a prestigious regional banking publication, which awarded it best branch digitisation initiative, application or programme across the Asia-Pacific region for 2018.
People’s Bank’s digitisation drive has been spearheaded by its Chairman, Hemasiri Fernando. Through this revolutionary journey Mr Fernando has ushered in a new era of success for the institution whilst redefining what it means to be truly digital in 21st century banking. Expanding on the bank’s five-year strategic plan, Mr Fernando believes: “The success of our ambitious digital transformation and the accolades won prove that our vision is judicious and our delivery on objectives is timely. People’s Bank has evolved in line with changing consumer trends and is considered one of the most customer-centric financial services providers in the country. We have also undergone a transformation in terms of corporate identity, sporting a modern and dynamic outlook. Our objectives with digital are simple and are to offer unparalleled convenience for the benefit of all our customers, and to make banking accessible and hassle-free at all times.”
The bank’s digitalisation drive offers greater competitiveness to customers – many of whom are aspiring entrepreneurs and SMEs. Its state-of-the-art fintech platform OMINI has the expansion capacity to meet the requirements of modern banking; OMINI has already demonstrated a marked improvement in management productivity and operations. This technology is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka and has given People’s Bank an unprecedented advantage, placing it firmly at the forefront of the sector.
In order to make its digital offering more customer centric, People’s Bank has also established self-banking units equipped with the most advanced ATMs, CDMs and kiosk terminals. These centres, which are open 24/7, 365 days a year, allow customers to conduct transactions, including cash withdrawals, deposits and payment of their utility bills. All of these were previously undertaken at local branches.
Demonstrating its competencies in IT security, the bank has also gained the highest international accreditation for information protection, having received the ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification, and is the first and only state bank in Sri Lanka ever to have done so.
According to CEO/General Manager N Vasantha Kumar: “The spirit of innovation continues to guide our progress, inspiring us to offer a diversified suite of products and services to cater to the needs of all our customers – whether retail or corporate, from diverse socioeconomic and demographic profiles or organisations of varying scales, including large-scale corporate and government establishments. Our digital solutions reflect our customer-centrism with products to suit everyone. In addition, the bank’s digital brand has already been patented as ‘People’s Digital’ and we have also established the country’s first state of-the-art people’s digital innovation centre in York Street, Colombo, from where it operates its close to 100 digital branches and over 500 digital agents across Sri Lanka.”
Highlighting the bank’s technological capabilities Mr Kumar continues: “Leveraging on the fintech banking platform to support its digital branch network, the bank now allows customers to register through wi-fi-enabled devices in less than ten minutes, enabling it to issue debit cards and activate customer accounts, and provide mobile and internet banking facilities instantly. The creation of an end-to-end transformation steeped in the OMINI platform delivers an integrated and seamless experience, revolutionising banking operations. With a fundamental green ethos, this digitisation process also boasts a vital advantage, which is that it is completely paperless.”
Expanding mobile banking
People’s Bank has also recently launched “People’s Wave” – its new addition to its product suite. People’s Wave is a state-of-the-art mobile banking application, which offers an exclusive digital banking experience to its customers, promoting the banking concept “anywhere, anytime”. Since its launch, it has become the most downloaded finance app in Sri Lanka, gaining an impressive 4.7 rating on Google Play, with over 200,000 downloads within a short span of time, surpassing all other similar apps in the country.
More to come
Although recognised as a trailblazer in Sri Lanka’s banking sector, People’s Bank is not resting on its laurels. Chairman Mr Fernando concludes: “The bank has ambitions for digital success, and we look forward to continuing to drive the digital journey in the industry. From a technology perspective, we are at present on par with some of the most renowned financial institutions in the world. That said, our journey is far from over, with our ultimate digital destination being to not only offer each and every citizen of Sri Lanka the benefit of a truly digital experience, but also to thereby positively enrich their lives.”